Sunday, June 3, 2007

India leaps into the eighteenth century

Photo by J. Adam Huggins, for The New York Times

Article by Somini Sengupta in The New York Times:

Chakubhai Khabhu, old and lean, smoking a thin, hand-rolled cigarette, stands on top of a pile of bricks his children have made with their hands. His daughter, Vanita, 20, tosses bricks to her brothers, two by two, in a seamless human chain. One of his sons’ wives takes a break to breastfeed her 2-year-old near a pile of black clay.

For every thousand bricks, they earn a bit less than $5.50. The family, with five adult laborers, pockets on average a little more than $2 a day.

This is the life behind the great Indian construction boom, propelled by an economy still growing at 9 percent a year.

The lure of steady work is drawing more and more migrants like the Khabhus, who come to brickyards like this one around the country because they can no longer sustain themselves by farming.

The success of the brick business, in other words, is as much a portrait of a growing industry as it is a testament to the dismal state of the Indian peasantry....

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